John and Janet McHugh

John and Martha Eagle

John Eagle is thought to have been born in Tasmania in about 1837.  He married Martha Hudson at Perth on 20 May 1857.  She was born in Hockham, Norfolk, England in 1840 and died on 9 May 1923 in Wesley Vale, Tasmania.  They had no children of their own but cared for Janet after the death of her mother in 1867.  In his will John left his entire estate in trust for his wife and then to Janet whom he described as his adopted daughter.

The Burnie Advocate Saturday 21 Jan 1922




By the death of the late Mr. John Eagle, who passed away at his residence, George street, Ulverstone, on January 13, the Leven district lost another of its grand old pioneers. It is 57 years since he took up land in North Motton. With Messrs. J. and Hudson and brothers, he acquired and previously owned by the Rev. Mathieson, of Forth. Some time afterwards, the late Mr. Eagle and his wife went to live on the property, which is named "Little Hockham," after cherished spot in the homeland. At that time, there were no roads in the district, and rough tracks were all the settlers had to serve their needs. The main road from Launceston was little better west of Elizabethtown. It was always an undertaking that occupied about eight days to travel from Bracknell to North Motton, which gives a good idea of the conditions then prevailing. The distance is about 80 miles, so that people who had occasion to move about to any extent necessarily spent most of their time on the roads, rather, in the bush.  

The Eagles and Hudsons hailed from Mountain Vale, above Bracknell, while their earliest neighbors, the Brothers and Bretts, came from Bishopsbourne. ..ort stages had to be made, and it was usual to do this till Norfolk Creek was reached. This name again recalls ancient history, for settlers from Norfolk, England, in the persons of the Yaxleys, Woods, Revells and others christened the locality, after that which they left to seek their fortunes in Van Diemen's Land. Yaxley and Vertigan are still well-known names between ... and Forth, and they have contributed in full measure to what is now a rich and flourishing agricultural district.

Untold difficulties were experienced getting from Forth to Ulverstone. A ford existed a short distance below the present bridge spanning the Gawler, near Williams' property, the track passing directly over the hill at the river. Later days found a road to the ...'t, and, later, the deviation known as Jacklin's road. Mrs. Eagle has often told of how she held on to the scrub to assist her in reaching the top of that hill! If credit be due to the men who went out back, and converted the wild bush into Tasmanian glory, how much more do we owe the brave and patient womenfolk who toiled with them! Men's work, perhaps, but it was heroism pure and simple on the part of those who are now our grand old ladies, or who have passed the ..urne whence there is no return. Many an eye would moisten if the full story of the bush were written. But these people won through, and, in the material sense, the great majority acquired comfort and independence. Mrs. Eagle is with us yet, and we trust she may be spared to enjoy many year' peace and contentment. In the very fullest sense, she represents a type of which the country has reason to be proud.

When Mr. Eagle was taking Mrs. Eagle to North Motton, the Latrobe bridge was in course of erection. Slow progress and heavy haulage marked the whole journey, and, although full loads were impossible, horses and cattle  knocked up frequently. The flour used by the Eagle family in those days was made from wheat grown at Mountain Vale, carted to Clerke's mill at Longford for grinding, and then taken to Launceston for shipment to Ulverstone. This state of affairs continued for a number of years. In the course  

of time wheat was produced locally, and ground at Scott's mill, between Ulverstone and Forth. They made use of the lower reach of the Leven River to shorten the severe uphill pull to the new settlement, and Manning's Jetty was built about four miles up. The rest of the track was of the roughest, and it is stated that the skeleton of prisoner, with leg irons complete, was found en route. Goods were forwarded by Mr. J. Fogg, who kept a store there at the time, and also by Mrs. Tait, whose husband (Capt. Tait) ran a craft to and from Launceston. But the securing of a regular and sufficient food supply was often impossible, often, too, it was necessary to crush wheat on a block to make meal for cake and porridge. It took nine trips to effect the transfer of Mr. Eagle's belongings from Mountain Vale to North Motton, and they had to be carried over portions of the track. The total distance covered in completing this task was the astonishing one of  140 miles! It is stated that some of the bricks used in the first chimneys at Wynyard cost 3/6 each, having been packed from Burnie 40 at a time. Be this as it may, building was no cheaper at North Motton. It is difficult in these days of good roads and rapid transit to form an idea of the expenditure of capital and labor that had to be borne by the old pioneers.

Ordinary troubles were increased by visitations such as the caterpillar pest, which at times did a very great deal of damage. In one instance, Mr. Eagle got only 101 bushels of oats from a heavy crop on seven acres of land, because of this plague. Water carriage was very uncertain, and many good crops of potatoes that represented hard toil were rendered useless. How the people managed to live, much less make headway, is something to marvel at. A good deal of the land taken up by the original pioneers is still in the hands of their direct descendants.

The first death that occurred in the district was that of the wife of Mr. McHugh, and it was attributed to lack of medical aid. And it is recorded that the first wedding was that of Mr. Josiah Chilcott and Miss Hudson, a niece of Mrs. Eagle. The religious life of the community commenced in Mr. and Mrs. Eagle's home, where services were regularly conducted by the Rev. W. H. Walton, of Burnie. Later, Mr. Brothers gave the land for a church— the site of the present substantial building. The donor, and also one or two more original settlers and helpers, rest in the little churchyard adjoining.  

After his long years of useful and successful toil, Mr. Eagle, with his wife, removed to Ulverstone, where the old pioneer passed the remaining years of his life in well-earned rest, "his duty done."